The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has grown quite expansive since the start of Phase 4 — with TV shows impacting films and vice versa. However, while Disney has been pushing out Marvel TV shows in quick succession, not all of them have been as top-tier as the likes of Avengers: Endgame or Black Panther. So, let’s break down the best and the worst of the Marvel TV shows…and the ones that are simply “good enough.”
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Official Description: The mercurial villain Loki resumes his role as the God of Mischief in a new series that takes place after the events of ‘Avengers: Endgame.’
Loki follows Tom Hiddleston’s journey from resident baddie to beloved antihero, all while retaining his God of Mischief reputation. His penchant for quippy remarks and an attitude marked by condescension and intellectual superiority remain intact. The high-octane thrill ride boasts humorous reprieves, as well as tender moments of heartfelt affection — all while holding together a manic multiverse.
The romance at the center also makes for serendipitous sparks —hearts pounding simultaneously with attraction and a flight-or-fight response worked wonders in the hands of Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino. And we cannot forget Owen Wilson’s straight-laced Mobius M. Mobius, who, despite all the warning signs, grows to trust the mischievous protagonist (antagonist?).
Worst: ‘Secret Invasion’
Official Description: Fury and Talos try to stop the Skrulls who have infiltrated the highest spheres of the Marvel Universe.
The CGI-laced finale with a fight sequence pulled straight from a ten-year-old’s imagination is enough to warrant this show’s “worst” placement. However, it’s not just the anticlimactic conclusion that makes the Samuel L. Jackson-led installment a disappointment. There’s way too much exposition. And, once the story finally picks up, the dialogue giving way to a semblance of action, it’s nearly over.
Though Jackson gives a compelling performance as an aged Fury who faces underestimation from those who deem him “beyond his prime,” he can’t save the series from an overly-simplistic storyline. Not to mention, Fury choosing to fight this battle against the more-powerful Skrulls alone — in a very Rambo, Terminator fashion — feels forced. It’s a character-driven, ego-catalyzed decision so clearly in place because the show is not budgeted (nor designed) to call upon Captain Marvel and other Avengers. It’s a vehicle for Fury, but that vehicle is a Toyota when it should be a Corvette. The movie eschews the common superhero aesthetic, which would be fine if it excelled as a spy thriller, which it does not. It’s not enough of a spectacle to be a superhero saga, and it doesn’t boast enough twisty-turny, espionage elements to be a successful spy series. So, what is it then? A mess.
Just OK: ‘Hawkeye’
Official Description: Series based on the Marvel Comics superhero Hawkeye, centering on the adventures of Young Avenger, Kate Bishop, who took on the role after the original Avenger, Clint Barton.
The hand-to-hand combat sequence — dishing aside all the CGI-based superpowers customary of other Marvel installments — makes Hawkeye a refreshing change of pace in the MCU. It’s a Christmas-time series with a little bit of merriness alongside its mob-themed narrative. While Hawkeye isn’t doing anything “new,” it’s a joyride with a lot of relatable character exchanges and funny action sequences.
The chemistry between Jeremy Renner’s Clint and his undesired protege, Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) often compensates for any narrative hiccups. It’s fun. It’s cute. It’s got just enough heart and family-themed moments to warrant its Christmas-time release. You’ll keep watching, but you may forget about it once it’s over.
Official Description: Blends the style of classic sitcoms with the MCU, in which Wanda Maximoff and Vision – two super-powered beings living their ideal suburban lives – begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.
WandaVision was a risk for the MCU — a black-and-white sitcom reminiscent of Bewitched and I Love Lucy that slowly transforms into an epic Marvel showdown. It’s a slow boil that simultaneously pays homage to the history of television while laying the groundwork for its unconventional mystery.
Each episode — each tiny grain of information dispelled like molasses — raises an eyebrow. More questions surface with each heightened expression on Wanda’s face. Elizabeth Olsen exceptionally captures the acting style inherent to ‘50s sitcoms: the hips that sway just a bit too much with each step, the face that contorts with exaggerated theatricality for those squinting a the 12-inch screen, the chipperness of June Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver.
Olsen carries the show, which, at the end of the day, is about grief. Thus, she transforms from this happy homemaker to a wrecked superhero, putting on one of the best performances in the MCU to date. It’s original. It’s clever. It’s laden with darkness yet bursting with feigned joy. It was a perfect kickstarter for the MCU’s foray into streaming.
Worst: ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’
Official Description: Following the events of ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ Sam Wilson/Falcon and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier team up in a global adventure that tests their abilities — and their patience.
This may be a controversial take, but The Falcon and the Winter Soldier fails to bring anything new to the table and drowns under the weight of testosterone-driven humor and typical blockbuster action. The buddy cop formula might have worked had the snarky rapport between Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan been more engaging than annoying. It gets old fast.
Though racially and politically charged, and more than relevant to modern viewing audiences, it never feels entirely sure of the message it wants to convey. In two words: it’s unfocused and corny. The plot strays in unnecessary directions and the dialogue is often cringeworthy.
Just OK: ‘Werewolf By Night’
Official Description: Follows a lycanthrope superhero who fights evil using the abilities given to him by a curse brought on by his bloodline.
Though not exactly a TV series, Werewolf by Night is an original Marvel production worthy of analysis (and its place among the other Disney+ releases on this list). The spooky black-and-white aesthetic plays well into werewolf lore —and the special feels like a vintage Halloween-time tale. It’s scary and silly at the same time, but only modestly entertaining.
It is, unfortunately, a wee bit predictable, making its short 53-minute runtime feel a tad too long. It’s a bit underwritten but benefits from Gael Garcia Bernal’s captivating performance as the production’s benevolent “monster.” It’s definitely a step outside the typical Marvel box, which is an exciting change of pace; the story itself just isn’t as exciting as the artistic approach.
Best: ‘Moon Knight’
Official Description: Steven Grant discovers he’s been granted the powers of an Egyptian moon god. But he soon finds out that these newfound powers can be both a blessing and a curse to his troubled life.
It’s so weird. It’s so intriguing. It’s so deft at building curiosity and spoon-feeding information — developments slowly merging to build a cohesive whole. It’s a seductive and dark series. Bright-eyed wonder of superhero spectacles be damned. We’re going for shadowy atmospheric tension and eerie discomfort.
Oscar Isaac excels in the lead role — as Marc and Steven fight for control over his body. One is a gift shop worker and amateur art historian. He’s nerdy, a bit plucky, and chicken-hearted. The other is a determined combatant — unafraid to kill for the mission. His shoulders are back. His voice is stern. Isaac seamlessly shifts between the bumbling buffoon and the fearless fighter, giving a must-see performance. Isaac alone would be enough to carry this show, yet he has a strong script to work with: one that is at once a character study and a suspenseful saga.
Worst: ‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’
Official Description: Jennifer Walters navigates the complicated life of a single, 30-something attorney who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered Hulk.
Even the action sequences are lacking in the thrill department. The whole show feels like a phoned-in Marvel production that uses intermittent Mark Ruffalo appearances to keep viewers watching — hoping that he’ll appear again to save this show from its mundane maneuverings. It doesn’t feel like a superhero series but more like a dramedy with a splashing of superpowers.
We get that Walters is a lawyer with a life outside of being a superhero, but the fixation on her family, romances, and friendships do not add to the narrative; rather, they work to diminish the larger-than-life superhero threats, creating a low-stakes environment that should never define a superhero series. The world is at stake, but let me make sure my work email went through. Not to mention, the finale completely goes off the rails in a failed attempt to be “meta.”
Just OK: ‘Ms. Marvel’
Iman Vellani’s contagious charisma is enough reason alone to watch Ms. Marvel. She’s relatable yet boasts all the blissful naivete and wonder inherent to the adolescent experience. There’s a great family and cultural element to Ms. Marvel that stands out as the show’s strongest feature.
Unfortunately, it is the narrative that suffers from a childish and unrealistic approach. Untrained kids taking on powerful villains and elite teams with years of combat experience? It just feels a little too Spy Kids for Marvel. Suspending disbelief is one thing, but asking us to dish aside all rationality is a bit much. However, the way the show manages to cover topics like colonialism, the immigrant experience, racism, and more through a coming-of-age lens makes this Marvel installment worth the watch. Had the storyline been executed in a more believable manner, Ms. Marvel would have ventured into “best” territory.